Faralda NDSM Crane Hotel Amsterdam
Soaring above the derelict shipyard-turned-edgy artist community NSDM-werf on the northern side of the IJ river (a free 10-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam's Centraal Station), a vivid red, yellow and gunmetal-grey industrial crane contains a TV production studio and the Faralda NDSM Crane Hotel Amsterdam (faralda.com). Its three fantasy-world suites perched at varying heights – Free Spirit (35m), Secret (40m) and Mystique (45m) – are swathed in shimmering fabrics, with freestanding baths, bold objets d'art and vertiginous views. On the crane's rooftop, you can soak in the outdoor hot tub or plunge off (attached to a bungee cord).
Hotel The Exchange
Designers from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute were let loose on the 61 rooms of the epicentral Hotel The Exchange, dressing them 'like models' in wacky and wonderful styles and themes – from oversized buttons and a fashion magazine's pages to calico-draped tailor's dummy and colossal, all-white Rembrandt-esque collar – using fabrics especially developed by the Dutch Textielmuseum (Textile Museum) in Tilburg. Rooms range from small and viewless to spacious sanctums but all have en suite bathrooms. Pricier rooms overlook the cultural centre Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam's monumental early 20th-century stock exchange (hence the name of the hotel, its cafe called Stock, and e-boutique, Options).
Spearheading Dutch design is Droog, a design collective in Nieuwmarkt, near the Red Light District, which works with designers to help them produce their works and sell them to the world. Its signature dry, surreal wit is apparent not only in the homewares and fashion in its shop but also in the exhibitions in its gallery space, and in its cafe/tearoom and fairy tale-inspired garden featuring a giant mushroom built from firewood, and sunflowers made with chicken wire. On the top floor, Droog's 'one and only bedroom' is a spacious apartment (hoteldroog.com) with a separate bedroom (complete with designer hot water bottles and clothes-hanger lamps), kitted-out island kitchen and enchanting rooftop views.
Hotel de Windketel
Around the corner from the former gasworks, now comprising the Westergasfabriek cultural complex and green expanse of Westerpark, is a diminutive octagonal water tower housing the Hotel de Windketel (windketel.nl). Constructed in 1897 as part of Amsterdam’s water works, the little tower sits in the middle of a pedestrianised square. Several residents of the surrounding apartments salvaged the historic structure to share it and their neighbourhood with visitors. Vintage and contemporary Dutch design adorns the ground-floor kitchen and dining room, first-floor living room and top-floor bathroom and skylit bedroom beneath the original slatted-timber ceiling.
On the broad IJ river in Amsterdam's Eastern Docklands, the labyrinthine Lloyd was built as a hotel for migrants in the 1920s, becoming a prison, juvenile detention centre then artist studios before its transformation into the world's first 'one- to five-star' hotel (the cheapest rooms have shared bathrooms). It retains its original art deco features but rooms have ultracontemporary design elements, such as a swing or extraordinary bed sleeping eight. In addition to a multifloor exhibit on the building's history, this 'cultural embassy' has a striking cafe, armchair-strewn library, and regular art exhibitions and events.
Passenger Ship Avanti
Amsterdam is inextricably tied to the water and hostel-boat Passenger Ship Avanti is moored smack-bang in the city's nautical quarter, just across from the NEMO science museum. Its 15 snug, squeaky-clean cabins have twin bunks and wash basins (bathrooms are shared); sociable common areas include an outdoor deck and a saloon where live-aboard hosts Dave and Anni serve breakfast.
Prefer a floating hotel? Botel (amstelbotel.nl) is a vast four-deck ship with 175 budget en suite cabins, docked at NSDM-werf, footsteps from the dock for the free ferries to/from Centraal Station and adjacent to floating bar/restaurants and a fabulous shipping container-based cafe, Pllek. If the weather's not conducive for lazing on Botel's sun terrace, the bar has a pool table, dartboard, jukebox and, best of all, pinball.
Secreted behind an early 17th-century stone gate (all that remains of the site's original theatre), exquisite boutique hotel the Dylan occupies an 18th-century Keizersgracht canal house ensconcing a herringbone-paved, topiary-filled inner courtyard. Bespoke furniture such as silver-leaf and mother-of-pearl drinks cabinets adorn its 40 individually decorated rooms and suites (some duplex). The Dylan's Michelin-starred Restaurant Vinkeles also hosts private chef's tables aboard its boat, the Muze, as it cruises the canals.
Houseboat Ms Luctor
A romantic waterborne hideaway, the 1913-built Houseboat Ms Luctor is anchored on a picturesque canal in the Western Islands, a five-minute walk to one of Amsterdam's most charming neighbourhoods, the Jordaan. The eco-friendly, solar-powered boat incorporates a three-room apartment entered via the wheelhouse, with a separate bedroom. Extras include the use of two bikes and a canoe to explore the canals, plus an organic breakfast basket.
Opposite the Royal Concertgebouw by Museumplein (home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum), this palatial neo-Gothic building was originally a bank then the city's conservatorium of music (now located by Centraal Station). Its most recent incarnation sees it stunningly converted into the sumptuous 129-room Conservatorium Hotel (conservatoriumhotel.com), with soaring glass and steel connecting the 19th-century brickwork (especially in the light-filled atrium lounge) and a 1000 square metre gym and spa – the largest of Amsterdam's hotels. Nods to the building's musical history include a light fitting incorporating dozens of suspended violins.
Beyond Amsterdam, there are plenty more unique sleeps across the Netherlands including the following:
- Tram in Hoogwoud (Controversy Tram Inn; controversy.nl)
- Soviet-era plane in Teuge (Vliegtuigsuite; hotelsuites.nl)
- Windmill in Bergharen (De Verrekijker; Molenweg 53, Bergharen)
- Wine barrel in Stavoren, Friesland (hotel-vrouwevanstavoren.nl),
- 'Stacked' traditional-styled houses in Zaandam (Inntel Hotel; inntelhotelsamsterdamzaandam.nl)
- In Rotterdam, you can stay in an offset cube house hostel (Stayokay Rotterdam; stayokay.com) and landmark 1960-built, 100m-high TV tower (euromast.nl), which you can abseil down.